Unamunda: David Ives, Spinoza, Trotsky, Esperanto

Last night I saw this excellent, brilliantly written play:

New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch De Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656. A play by David Ives.
June 26–July 25, 2010, DC Jewish Community Center.
Directed by Jeremy Skidmore.

My review in progress can be found on my Reason & Society blog.

Well, it turns out that David Ives authored another play I saw in Buffalo many many years ago: All in the Timing. I remember very little except for one vignette featuring Leon Trotsky pacing around his desk with an ice pick in his head acting like Ralph Kramden threatening Alice with a trip to the moon. However, there is another component to the play I don't remember at all, as described in this review:

"Universal Language" is an ambitious parody of the Esperanto campaign, in which an unscrupulous entrepreneur has set up a studio in which he promises to teach the language that will be understood everywhere, and an innocent student arrives eager to cure her stutter and speak the universal language. The language itself is a brilliant invention, worthy of Tom Stoppard. I was reminded of the artificial language in his Dogg's Hamlet, in which, for example, "Plank" means "here" -- and surely the reminiscence is deliberate, since at one point "Tom Stoppard" is the universal language's phrase for "tongue stopper." It's in fact the main source of laughter in the play, and if Derek Nason's speed of delivery sometimes meant that we missed the good ones, there were plenty to go around, as Emily Curry as the student actually begins to speak the nonexistent language, and becomes a proponent of what began as a scam. If it seemed to run a little longer than it should, perhaps it was we weren't catching all the delicate wit of the doubletalk "universal language," but I've never seen a production in which that problem was solved.
Yet another account:
If Sure Thing and Words are playgrounds for Ives to explore the elastic properties of great literature, The Universal Language sends him leaping off into the basics of communication. Shy, reticent Dawn (Carlin) meekly presents herself at Don's (Correa) school of Unamundo (read: Esperanto). She's a stutterer and wants to be able to speak fluently. Don, exuberant salesman that he is -- I don't think Correa has ever been better -- pulls her in with the greeting, "Bell jar! Harvard U?" ("Hello! How are you?") She has an uncanny gift for Unamundo, and picks it up almost at once. They chatter away at one another as -- you guessed it -- romance begins to bloom. But here Ives stumbles just a bit. Instead of trusting us to get his point, he lets Dawn and Don fall back into English (that's "John Cleese" in Unamundo) to explain Don's motivation for inventing a universal language: "I believe language is the opposite of loneliness, and if everyone in the world spoke the same language, no one would be lonely." Luckily, it's not long before the enraptured couple goes back to Unamundo. Odd words such as "shtick" and "Tommy Stoppard" fly past us and magically make themselves heard. Correa pumps his way around the stage like a Latino version of Groucho Marx, with Carlin matching him step for step in the plucky tradition of Judy Garland or Ginger Rogers. It's pure comic virtuosity.
Here's a more recent account: http://sdjewishworld.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/ion-brings-back-all-in-the-timing/.

The artificial language in this play is Unamunda, but as you can see, it has also been incorrectly referenced as Unamundo. I don't know why people can't get something as important as this right. In any case, this play has been published with companion plays by Ives:

All in the Timing: Fourteen Plays

Given the awkward love story theme, I wonder whether the creator of the new film Conlang knows this play.

There's more! Nobody can resist a conlang, even a fake one:

English-Unamunda Dictionary

Unamunda - Uncyclopedia, the content-free encyclopedia

unamunda.com | velcro!

The Spectator

Universal Language@Everything2.com

Unamunda, Esperanto, Japanese, being understood in another language, and how I managed to get in two different photo albums in Japan

Iago Parla Unamunda: Understanding a nonsense language By Emily Gasser
(full-on scholarly article!)

You can watch several productions on the play on YouTube, I started with this one:


Here is an undeveloped Facebook page:


And here is a musical composition! You can download the score for free:

Unamunda by Robert Giracello.

. . . Because I'm not the only one who can't help myself.

1 comment:

neil.nachum said...

You can find several version of The International Language by David Ives at Youtube. One has been viewed 11,773 times. I added comments of how it reminded me of Esperanto. But Esperanto works.